Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part 4

Question 5: My Muslim friend tells me that I believe in three Gods. What does she mean?

Although one of the similarities between Christianity and Islam is belief in one God, there are major differences in how that oneness is expressed. Islam states that God is one and that to believe in the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), is tritheism (believing in three gods as opposed to monotheism which is belief in one God). Muslims accuse Christians of tritheism, which they consider shirk. Shrik is associating partners to Allah (or polytheism) and is the unforgivable sin.[1]

The Qur’an addresses the issue of the trinity in the following verses:

  • “Thus, in regard to the Trinity, the Qur’an says, ‘Say not ‘Three’—Cease! (It is) better for you! —Allah is only One God.” Surah 4:171

  • “They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve.” Surah 5:73

  • “Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” Surah 112

The Trinity

Muslims take extreme care to protect the oneness of God. Christians also take care to protect the oneness of God, but Christians understand the identity of God differently. Christians believe that God is a trinity—three in one. The Muslim critique can serve as a challenging reminder to Christians that we serve a God who truly is one. Often times Christians can make the mistake of falling into tritheism. We see the Father doing X and the Son doing Y without grasping that the Father is the Son and the Son is the Father.

In the trinity, God is made known through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. None of these aspects of the trinity exist without the other two. When Christians speak of the trinity, there is a danger of going to one of two extremes. Some Christians make the mistake of trying to over-explain the trinity; they use pictures and analogies to make the trinity “make sense.” On the other end of the spectrum, there are Christians who believe the trinity is so mysterious that we should not even try to understand how it works.

Both of these extremes are a problem. Over simplifying the trinity does not do the trinity justice. Anytime we think that we have grasped the trinity and completely understand how it works, we deceive ourselves. However, if we simply give up thinking about the trinity because it is too “mysterious,” we begin to despair and don’t experience the benefits of contemplating this mystery. The difficulty for the Christian lies in finding a balance to these two extremes.

When Dale Bruner speaks on the trinity, he speaks of the “shyness of God.”[2] All throughout the Gospels, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit continually deflecting attention away from themselves and pointing towards another.

The “shyness” of the Spirit:

The Spirit comes in the Son’s name not to draw attention to himself, but to bear witness to the Son and glorify the Son. And so Jesus says:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said” (John 14:26).

“But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The Spirit points to Jesus saying “Look! Listen to him. Learn from him. Follow him. Worship him. Love him.”

The “shyness” of the Son:

All of this attention does not go to the Son’s head. The Son does not travel through the land claiming that he is the greatest. The Son says:

“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me” (John 8:54). Jesus says he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). He submits to the Spirit when the Spirit leads him into the desert to be tempted (Matthew 4:1). He submits to the Father at Gethsemane when he says, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The “shyness” of the Father:

We hear the Father’s voice twice in the Gospels. Once at Jesus’ baptism and then again at the Transfiguration. In both places the Father says the same thing: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

Over and over again we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit deflecting to one another. Each seems to be pointing to the other. This type of relationship is kind of like a dance where each bows to the other while still in relationship.[3] God exists in fellowship with Godself. God is always in communion. One is never without the others—they are never acting alone.

Why is this such a big deal? What does it matter if the God is really Jesus, or if the Spirit is really God? Why do we talk about the person of the trinity? Would it not be easier to simply speak of one God and leave all of these details out? Why is this such a big deal?

In order to address these questions, we have to refer back to the revelation of God that was mentioned earlier. God chose to reveal Godself as Jesus Christ. God came to earth as the human Jesus in order that we might know God. God came as Jesus, known as “Immanuel,” meaning, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). In the Old Testament, God spoke to the people through the prophets. But now, rather than speaking through someone, God becomes someone. We do not hear about God through a messenger. We hear about God from God! We are given a direct revelation!

Again, in order to understand the gravity behind this concept, we have to refer back to what Christians say makes Jesus so special. When Jesus died on the cross, God died on the cross. Everything hinges on this understanding. Consider this: if Jesus is not God, than Jesus’ death on the cross did no more for us than the death of any good person.

Christians believe that Jesus took on our sin and died on the cross. He was raised three days later, showing victory over our sin. If Jesus is not God, than our sin was not taken upon the cross. And if our sin was not taken upon the cross we are in a hopeless, sinful state. But thanks be to God, God has conquered our sin by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, we worship Jesus because he is God. If we worshipped Jesus without acknowledging him as God, we would be guilty of idolatry.

God is one. God exists as a fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an unbreakable, mysterious union, which is another aspect of God’s transcendence (meaning this is beyond our comprehension). Christians worship a big God.



[1] McDowell 302.

[2] John Ortberg, “The ‘Shyness’ of God. Christianity Today. 32:66 (2001) 1. From hereon referred to as “Ortberg.”

[3] Ortberg 2.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part Three

Question 4: What are the major differences between Christianity and Islam?

Jesus.

The biggest difference between Islam and Christianity is who we say Jesus is. Of the 6,236 verses in the Qur’an, 74 speak of Jesus Christ, and 42 of these verses refer to him indirectly.

What do Muslims believe about Jesus? Muslims respect and revere Jesus. Muslims believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and was born of a virgin.[11] While the Qur’an speaks very respectfully of both Jesus and Mary, the Qur’an insists that Jesus is only a man—not God or the Son of God. Muslims say that Jesus was created in the same way that Adam was created: “Jesus in Allah’s Sight is like Adam; He created him from dust, then He said to him: ‘Be’, and there he was.”[12] Islam explicitly says that Jesus is not God. Surah 9:30 reads: “The Christians say that the Messiah is the Son of God. God fight them! How they lie!”

The Qur’an also denies that Jesus died on the cross. Jesus’ enemies had planned to kill him, but God saved him and took him up to heaven. In Surah 4:157 we read, “…They said: ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.’ They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but the likeness of him was put on another man (and they killed that man).” Islamic tradition says that the man killed on the cross was Judas, and that Judas only appeared to look like Jesus.[13]

To put it simply, the Islamic religion states that Jesus was a messenger:

O People of the Book, do not exceed the bounds of your religion, nor say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only Allah’s Messenger and His Word, which He imparted to Mary, and is a spirit from Him! So believe in Allah and His Messengers and do not say ‘three’ [gods]. Refrain; it is better for you. Allah is truly One God. How—glory be to Him—Could He have a son?[14]

According to the Qur’an, Jesus’ message had three parts surrounding the past, the present, and the future. Jesus had a message regarding the past—he confirmed and preserved the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Jesus had a message regarding the present—he brought the gift of a meal from heaven (the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper). According to Islamic tradition, Jesus’ message concerning the future was a prediction of a future messenger “who would come after him whose name would be Ahmad, the Prophet of Islam.[15]” Islam claims that historical Christianity has distorted Jesus’ mission and Islam must correct these mistakes.[16]

Revelation

Isma’il al-Faruqi is a professor of Islamics at Temple University. He writes that the great difference between Christianity and Islam is on the subject of revelation. According to al-Faruqi, “God does not reveal Himself to anyone. Christians talk about the revelation of God Himself—by God of God—but that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam.”[1]

Christians believe that God came to earth in human form. Jesus Christ came to earth as God. There is no depth of God that is not consistent with what is revealed in Jesus Christ. So when people encounter Jesus, they encounter God. Christians often use two words to describe God. God is both transcendent and immanent. God as transcendent means that God is other. God is beyond our scope of comprehension. We cannot even scratch the surface of what it means to know God.

Christians also say that God is immanent. When we say that God is immanent, we say that God is with us and we can know God. We use both of these words to describe how God is both personal and beyond our comprehending. Christians hold these two views of God in tension. This tension exists in the Bible as well. In Isaiah 45:15 we read, “Truly, you are a God who hides yourself.” Only four verses later we read, “I have not spoken in secret…”[2] While this might seem difficult to hold in tension, we can say with confidence that even though we cannot wrap our minds around how big God is, God has chosen to reveal part of Godself to us. We speak of this with both confidence and modesty.

Christians believe that God freely chooses to reveal Godself to us. We do not just encounter facts or information about God, we are actually exposed to Godself! This does not mean that we know everything there is to know about God. God is so big (transcendent), that what we are capable of knowing about God is only a small drop in a large ocean. How can we know God and yet not know God, you may ask? Consider the story of Moses and the burning bush. God reveals Godself to Moses through the bush. However, God is not fully known. When Moses asks what God’s name is, God responds, “I am who I am.”[3] Although God reveals Godself to Moses, there is certainly a great deal of mystery behind this revelation. It is almost as if the light of God’s revelation is so bright that we are blinded. God is beyond what our soul can grasp.[4] When we see God, it is as if we are seeing through a glass dimly.[5]

Islamic tradition says that God cannot be both transcendent and immanent. Professor al-Faruqi explains: “You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”[6] Islam says that God does not reveal Godself, but that God only reveals God’s will. “Islam teaches that God does not reveal himself to anyone in any way. God reveals only his will, which is found in the Qur’an.”[7] God is in many respects unknowable.[8]

Scripture

Although some of the stories and teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an sound similar, there are some distinct differences between these two books. Muslims believe that while Christians had a holy book at one point, this book has been tampered with and no longer contains the full truth; only the Qur’an holds the full truth.[9]

Certain passages in the Qur’an state that Christians have misinterpreted their own text by failing to recognize that the Paraclete in the Gospel of John (which Christians call the Holy Spirit) is in reality speaking of the coming of Muhammad. “At times, the Qur’an manifest so much anger at Jews and Christians for failing to see that its teaching constitute the completion of their own scripture that it pronounces them to be enemies doomed to destruction.“[10]

References from the Qur’an on Christians and the Bible:

  • “Do not dispute with the people of the Book, save in the fairest way; except for those of them who are evildoers. And say: ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and to Him we are submissive’” (Surah 29:46).

  • “And with some of those who say: ‘We are Christians’, we made a covenant; but they forgot part of what they were reminded of so we stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. Allah will let them know what they did” (Surah 5:14).

Since the Bible was compiled before Muhammad, there are not any specific references to Islam.




[1]Isma’il al-Faruqi, “On the Nature of Islamic Da’wah.” International Review of Mission. 65:260 (1976) 406. From hereon referred to as “al-Faruqi.”

[2] Isaiah 45:19.

[3] Exodus 3:14

[4] Theologians call this “apophaticsm.”

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:12

[6] al-Faruqi 406.

[7] McDowell 90.

[8] Taber 37.

[9] Jerald F. Dirks. Understanding Islam. (Maryland: Amana Publications, 2003) 276.

[10] Levenson 32.

[11] Surah 3:45-47.

[12] Surah 3:59.

[13] S. M. Zwemer. Muhammad or Christ? (London: Seely, Service &Co, 1916) 230.

[14] Surah 4:171.

[15] McDowell 114.

[16] McDowell 121.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part Two

My proposed schedule is already changing:

Part two: Similarities between Christianity and Islam
Part three: Differences between Christianity and Islam with particular focus on Scripture, revelation and the person of Jesus
Part four: Looking at the Muslim accusation of tritheism (worshipping three gods)
(Blogging hiatus in which I finish a vacation in Mich, travel to Chicago, drive back to Jersey and move to Pennsylvania).
Part five: Do all religions lead to God?

Question 3: What do Christians and Muslims have in common?

I will attempt to list several things that Christians and Muslims have in common. Please note that many of the things that I list as being held in common contain subtle differences even in themselves that we will look into later.

  1. Both Christians and Muslims believe in one God (this is called monotheism). While there are disagreements in what this one God looks like, we can say on a very base level that both believe there is one God.
  2. Both Christians and Muslims speak out against idolatry. Both hold to the claim that we should have no other gods.
  3. Both speak of serving the God of Abraham.
  4. Both pray.
  5. Both fast.
  6. Both give to the poor.
  7. Both believe the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), Psalms, and the New Testament are inspired words of God.
  8. Both Christians and Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life.
  9. Many Muslims and Christians are against drunkenness, pre-marital sex, drug abuse, etc. Which means that on a very base level, Christians and Muslims should be in agreement on most school P.T.A. meetings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part One

This is the first of several posts I intend to make on the topic of Christianity's relationship with other religions. Rather than speaking in the abstract, I am going to focus on how Islam and Christianity interact. (A recent United Nations demographic report forecasts that Muslims will represent at least half of the global birthrate after the year 2055 [1] ). My proposed schedule in tackling this topic is as follows (this schedule is subject to change)::

Part One: What is Islam? Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
Part Two: What are the similarities and differences between Muslims and Christians? Who do Muslims say Jesus is?
Part Three: Do all religions lead to God?

As you can see, this first post contains the basics--probably nothing new for anyone who has spent time studying world religions. While I don't want to over-simplify things, I am hoping to present this in an understandable fashion.

Question 1: What is Islam?

Who is Muhammad?

Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570 AD. His parents died when he was very young and an uncle raised him. Muhammad was illiterate (which is one of the reasons why his revelations were passed around verbally). Muhammad was forty years old when he received his first revelation. These revelations continued for the next twenty-three years and have come to be known as the Qur’an. Muhammad began to share these revelations with others, but in 622 Muhammad and his followers were persecuted and they migrated from Mecca to Medina (this move marks the start of the Muslim calendar). Years later they returned to Mecca where Muhammad died at age sixty-three. [2]

Muhammad claimed that there were prophecies written in Christian and Judaic Scriptures predicting his coming. Therefore, if the Jews and Christians claimed they did not have record of his coming then, he concluded, they must be concealing some of the Holy Scripture. [3]

What is Islam?

The Arabic word Islam means ‘submission’ and comes from a word meaning ‘peace.’ A Muslim (someone who believes or follows Islam), practices the Five Pillars that make up the religion Islam. These Five Pillars were recorded by Muhammad and are as follows:

1. “Shahada”—which is a testimony of faith. The shahada is reciting the testimony: “There is one true God (Allah), and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This is the most important pillar and is required when someone wants to convert to Islam.

2. Prayer—Muslims are to pray five times a day for five to ten minutes facing Mecca. These prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. Muslims believe that they have a direct link to God—they do not need anyone to intercede for them.

3. “Zakat”—Muslims are required to give to the poor. “Zakat” means purification. Muslims believe that their possessions are purified when they set aside a small portion of what they own for the needy. They see giving to the poor like pruning a plant; when you cut back branches, new growth comes.

4. Fasting—Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan (Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar). Muslims fast from dawn to sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. This kind of fasting allows Muslims to gain sympathy for the hungry.

5. Pilgrimage—If it is financially and physically possible, Muslims are asked to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their life. About 2 million people travel to Mecca each year. After the pilgrimage, the Muslim receives the title “hajji." [4]

What is the Qur’an?

The word Qur’an means: “That which is read, recited, or rehearsed." [5] When Muhammad died, there was not a complete manuscript of the Qur’an. Muhammad’s revelation was committed to memory by his companions. Various chapters were written down on pieces of bone, leather, leaves, and flat stones. Islamic tradition says that Abu Bakr was the first caliph (or leader of Islam), and made the first complete written copy of the Qur’an. The Qur’an in its present form was assembled around 646 AD. [6]

The Qur’an contains 114 surahs (or chapters) and was written in Arabic. Since the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad in Arabic, any copy of the Qur’an that is translated into English or any other language is not officially considered the Qur’an nor a version of the Qur’an. Instead, it is considered a translation of the meaning of the Qur’an. [7]

Question 2: Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all say that they worship the God of Abraham. And technically speaking, the word “Allah” simply means God, which means that Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews refer to God as “Allah." [8] To say that God is unique, omnipotent, just, merciful, has foreknowledge, and reveals God’s will, “then Jews, Christians, and Muslims can easily detect the selfsame God in the Lord of Judaism, in the triune God of the church, and in Allah." [9]

We can also answer this question in the negative. Lamin Sanneh asks the question: “If…Muslims and Christians worship essentially the same God, why do they not call themselves by one common name?" [10] Both Christianity and Islam make exclusive claims about God and religion. In the Qur’an we read, “The true religion with Allah is Islam” (Surah 3:19). And, “Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed my blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for your religion” (Surah 5:5). In the Bible we read Jesus’ words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). So both Christianity and Islam make particular claims about the God they worship.

Both religions claim the God of Abraham, but how this plays out is very different. Sanneh explains: “Islam and Christianity both agree (and are similar here) that truth cannot coexist with its opposite, and is embodied in obedience." [11]. Hence, the religions as practiced are different despite any perceived similarity in the object of worship.

_____________________________________________________________________
(1) George W.
Braswell Jr, What you need to know about Islam and Muslims. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000) 2.

(2) I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam (Houston: Darussalam, 1997) 55.From hereon referred to as “Ibrahim.”

(3) Bruce A. McDowell & Anees Zaka, Muslims and Christians at the Table (New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1999) 81. From hereon referred to as “McDowell.”

(4) Ibrahim 65-67.

(5) All references to the Qur’an are taken from: An Interpretation of the Qur’an. Trans: Majid Fakhry. (New York: New York University Press, 2002).

(6) McDowell 73.

(7) McDowell 74.

(8) Ibrahim 54.

(9) J Dudley Woodberry, “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?” Christian Century. 121:10 (2004) pg. 36.

(10) Jon D. Levenson, “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” Christian Century. 121:8 (2004) 32.

(11) Lamin Sanneh, “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” Christian Century. 121:9 (2004) 35. From hereon referred to as “Sannah.”

(12) Sanneh 35.






Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My mom says I'm cool.

Conversation between two teenagers in 1845 AD
#1: I've missed you. Send me a letter some time.
#2: A letter? Ugh. That is so out. Everyone sends telegrams these days.

Conversation between two teenagers in 1880AD
#1: I've missed you. Send me a telegram some time.
#2: A telegram? Ugh. That is so out. Everyone makes phone calls these days.

Conversation between two teenagers in 1994 AD
#1: I've missed you. Give me a call some time.
#2: A call? Ugh. That is so out. Everyone sends e-mails these days.

Conversation between two teenagers in 2002 AD
#1: I've missed you. Send me an e-mail some time.
#2: An e-mail? Ugh. That is so out. Everyone IMs these days.

Just when I thought I was hip for starting a blog, I found out that I was actually behind the times. I asked some of the students in the youth group for their blog addresses and was met with blank stares:

"A blog? What's a blog?" one girl asked
"It's your own personal website that you--"
"Oh, is it like a Xanga?"
"A what?" I asked.
"A Xanga. You know, an on-line journal for all your friends to see?"
"Oh. Right."

So much for my attempt at hipness.

Conversation between two teenagers in 2005AD
#1: I've missed you. Check outmy blog some time.
#2: A blog? Ugh. That is so out. Everyone uses Xangas these days.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Problem with Diversity

"God's Way -
Kind after Kind -
different cultures -
A Beautiful Rainbow -
And the Lord Said His Creation was GOOD!"


This past spring I took a class entitled "Sin and Salvation in the Old Testament." In this course, we studied the story of the Tower of Babel and compared some theories behind this event.

Traditionally, we've said this is a story of pride and punishment. People realize how much they can accomplish. People try to make a name for themselves by building a tower to the heavens. God recognizes people's pride and humbles them through muddling their language and scattering them across the earth.

Ted Hiebert suggests a different interpretation. He writes:

"According to this alternative approach, the story is not about pride and punishment at all. Rather, it is about one culture and many cultures. It describes the human inclination to create a single culture with a single language in a single place coming into conflict with God's plan to create a world of many cultures with many languages in many places. The cultural diversity with which the story ends, and which the story was in fact told to explain, is thus presented not as a punishment on the human race for their sin or pride, but as the way God intended the world to look in the age following the great flood, the age in which the story teller, the Yahwist, and we, his most recent audience, both live."


(You can read his entire article here.)


While I find Hiebert's suggestion fascinating, I don't like where this line of logic is headed. Check out the above rainbow-y picture again. Now consider this second picture below:

“Satan’s Way—He Hates God’s Creation—

He Hates Diversity—He Only Wants

One Race—One Culture—

Race Mixing is Satanic—It is Wrong!

Don’t Destroy the Rainbow.”

These rainbow-y pics and statements are from the KKK website. Also from the website: "Love the diversity of God's creation." Diversity at its worst. Talk about spin.

(Thanks to Adam Cleaveland for the Hiebert link).

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

So I was talking with Kathy Lee last night when she said...

(Disclaimer: This post has nothing overly edifying, thought provoking, or theologically profound...it's just a story that happened to the East Coast Drury's)

John and I celebrated our third anniversary with a very romantic meal at Kathy Lee Gifford's house last night.

The way this unfolded was a bit random. I'll provide the necessary dialogue in the way I imagine this whole thing unfolded.

SCENE ONE: A CONNECTION IS MADE

(KLG and EM, a woman from Holland, MI, sit at a coffee shop in Florida. KLG pulls out a book.)

KLG: Hey, I just read a wonderful book.
EM: Hey, I know the woman who wrote that book!
KLG: Hey, no kidding.
EM: Yup.

SCENE TWO: A DREAM IS SHARED

(KLG and EM are talking on the phone)

KLG: Hey have I ever told you about the musical I've been writing for the past 7 years?
EM: Hey! No. What is it about?
KLG: It's called "Hurricane Aimee." It's about the preacher Aimee Semple McPherson.
EM: What's so special about her?
KLG: She's known for starting the Four-Square Gospel Church. She preached in plays and circus acts that drew thousands to her Angelus Temple in Los Angeles.
EM: Hey, that's pretty cool.
KLG: She was quite a controversial figure. Married 4 times. Left her second husband repeatedly in the middle of the night. Claims she was kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan. Later in her life, many believe she faked her own kidnapping and went off with her lover while the nation feared the worst. Yes. She was quite the lady.
EM: Yup.

(Pause)

EM: Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you put on the musical at your house! We invite big New York theater people who could potentially put your show on stage, Affluent people who could donate money to make this show a reality, and Mandy Drury and her husband--she's a woman pastor.
KLG: Okay. I like women pastors.
EM: Her mom was the one that wrote the book you like.
KLG: Okay, I like her mom's book.

(The End)

That's the scoop. Here are the stats involved in the above conversation:

* The book: Listening to God by Marilyn Hontz
* The Musical: "Hurricane Aimee"--it was incredible. Aimee was neither villianized or romanticized. SHe was shown with all of her flaws. We saw this musical performed in KLG's basement theater and were mesmerized. She had hired a cast from Broadway--Aimee was played by the lead of "Mama Mia," Carolee Carmello.
* Kathy Lee Gifford: Very spunky and gracious and knows how to cater a swell party.

So that's that. I was fascinated by Aimee Semple McPherson and the way that God could use a messed up, broken vessel to change lives. I wonder if there's ever a point where God says, "Hey, so-and-so has gotten a little too kooky for me. I don't think I want to associate my name with him anymore." Maybe?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Racial Reconciliation

If I had a blog two months ago, I'd have posted about the time when Erwin McManus spoke at Princeton Seminary. But now that I am officially "emergent" (according to Paul's definition two posts ago), I can post away on this event...

The biggest take-away from this event was the answer McManus gave to a closing question: "How can my local church find racial reconciliation?"

McManus responded with a story which I have roughly reconstructed below:

McManus shared how he was invited to visit a large, wealthy, white church in Southern California. He met with the board (which was large, wealthy, white and male) who asked him the question how their church could find racial reconciliation.

They explained to McManus that they wanted other races represented in their worship services and that they already had plans to implement a program to offer aid and evangelism to minorities nearby who were living under the poverty level in lower-income housing complexes.

After hearing their plans, McManus began to ask questions of the men:

How many of you have someone of another race living on your street? (All hands up.) How many of you work with someone of another race? (All hands up.) How many of you know someone of another race who is in your same financial bracket? (All hands up.) "These are the people you must reach if you want to work towards racial reconciliation," he said.

McManus than explained that plans to help the poor were great plans, but that was simply what they were--plans to help the poor. They were not plans to implement racial reconciliation.

"If this church truly wants to find racial reconciliation," he explained, "it must begin with you befriending someone of another race who lives on your street, works in your office, and shops were you shop. You must interact with those you already see as your 'equals'."

"And then," he continued, "you must be prepared for your daughters to enter into bi-racial marraiges. Because if your church acquires racial reconciliation, you will start to have people of other races attend your worship services. And if your sons and daughters worship in the same building with people of other races, the probability is high that they could fall in love with each other. So if you really want racial reconciliation in your church, you must be willing to allow your daughter to marry a man from another race."

McManus was not invited back.

This story has stuck with me. It's easier to volunteer in a lower-income housing complex than to befriend the black man I work with. Plus I get a warm-fuzzy feeling after my time of volunteering. I'm not saying that we should cease our work with the poor, but that we should simply call it what it is...work with the poor...not racial reconciliation.